UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw says former foe Cody Garbrandt has all the skills to fight for the title again, but with many other top contenders chomping at the bit, Dillashaw doesn’t think Garbrandt’s road back to the belt will be easy.
T.J. Dillashaw had 25 minutes to work when he met teammate-turned-rival Cody Garbrandt for the UFC bantamweight championship in the UFC 217 co-main event earlier this month. However, he only needed two rounds to become a two-division champion.
After a scare at the end of the first round, Dillashaw dethroned champion Garbrandt with vicious strikes in the second round.
The pair of elite bantamweights traded verbal barbs for months leading up to the fight. They coached The Ultimate Fighter 25 opposite each other earlier this year and were initially booked for UFC 213 in July until Garbrandt pulled out with a back injury. Dillashaw and Garbrandt used to train together at Team Alpha Male (TAM), but Dillashaw parted ways with the Sacramento-based team in 2015 to work with former TAM head coach Duane Ludwig in Colorado. Many TAM fighters, including Garbrandt, took the change personally.
Dillashaw is certainly happy with his performance at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, but admittedly, he wouldn’t have minded dominating “No Love” over five rounds because of the bitterness that was between them.
“Getting the finish, getting the win is the most important thing,” Dillashaw told FloCombat.com. “I almost would have preferred to beat his ass for five rounds to really prove that I was the better fighter and finish him in the fifth round like I do in some of my fights, later in the championship rounds to really prove a point. But obviously, I’m going to take advantage of stopping fights.”
Soon after losing the belt (for which he bested Dominick Cruz in December 2016), Garbrandt called for an immediate rematch with Dillashaw, but the new champ wasn’t — and still isn’t — open to the idea.
“He definitely doesn’t deserve a rematch,” Dillashaw said. “He never actually defended his belt. In my mind, you’re not even really a champion until you defend your belt. He never ever once defended it, and he got knocked out in the second round. I lost a split decision against Cruz when the owners of the UFC told me they thought I won the fight. You tell me how that makes sense. No, he’s going to have to build his way back up.”
Considering the trash talk between the two leading up to their title fight, it seems likely that Dillashaw and Garbrandt will meet again — perhaps more than once. Though Dillashaw believes Garbrandt has the skills to get another crack at the title, the champ said he doesn’t see Garbrandt having an easy road back to the top.
Other bantamweight contenders include fierce strikers Jimmie Rivera and John Lineker, who meet at UFC 219 next month, as well as the well-rounded Raphael Assuncao.
“[Garbrandt] is good enough [to earn another title shot], but he does have holes in his game and I think I’ve proved that now,” Dillashaw said. “I also don’t believe he has a chin. I think a lot of people are scared of his power, and there are some guys in the weight class that can hang with [him]. It’s going to be a tough road. He’s definitely good enough to do it, but it’s going to be tough.”